(EnergyAsia, March 19 2014, Tuesday) — Underlining its desperate search for energy diversity, Japan is expected to continue support for the development of coal-fired power plants in the face of growing opposition from environmentalists, development banks and the US government.

The Obama administration has been quietly pressing the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the state-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) to scale back their support and lending for proposals to develop coal-fired power plants in developing countries.

Policy makers, scientists and environmentalists blame coal burning as a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change and pollution in many cities around the world, especially in China and India.

The National Resources Defence Council, a US environmental group, has identified JBIC, which works closely with Japanese engineering firms, as the world’s leading source of funds for the construction of coal-fired power plants in developing countries.

Between 2007 and 2013, Japan’s leading development bank lent a total of US$12 billion to help developing countries build a total of 21 coal-fired power plants, said the NRDC. The loans often are attached with conditions requiring the participation of Japanese engineering and technology providers like Mitsubishi Corp, Hitachi and Toshiba, which claim to build energy-efficient power plants that use less coal and produce less emissions than their competitors.

“In a single year, on average, JBIC-supported plants emit 120 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of a tenth of Japan’s annual emissions and half of the country’s emissions from its own domestic coal-fired power generation fleet,” wrote Justin Guay of the US environmental group Sierra Club.

“Even the relatively higher efficiency coal plants they export which burn less coal per unit of electricity, generate greenhouse gas emissions that are clearly unacceptably high.”

JBIC’s role in funding coal power plants has grown at the same time that other development agencies like the World Bank, US Export-Import Bank, European Investment Bank, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have pledged to reduce their support for such projects.